Comprehensive public opinion poll on European affairs


SZÁZADVÉG: CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEAN POLITICAL ELITES RESPOND TO THE OPINIONS OF THE PEOPLE

“Traditional European values and Christianity are being preserved in Central and Eastern Europe, where the political elite continue to pay attention to what the people think and act accordingly,” reported Zsolt Barthel-Rúzsa, the Chairman of the Századvég Foundation at an event held in Budapest on Thursday.​


Barthel-Rúzsa, at a conference presenting the 2018 results of the Századvég Foundation’s “Where is Europe Heading? – Project 28” survey, said that the research carried out over the last three years has demonstrated a reality which the Western political and economic elite do not dare to face.

He highlighted Századvég polls that indicate that European citizens believe ill-advised liberalism and multiculturalism have led to the formation of a crisis which the various international organizations and Western elites are unable to escape from.

“At this moment, ensuring the security and reliable future of the people should trump self-interest, something which is understood only by the political elite in Central and Eastern Europe,” he added.

Chief Analyst for the Századvég Foundation Tamás Lánczi reported that the research, which has been ongoing since 2016, involved a representative survey of 1,000 residents from each participating EU country.

Lánczi said that the first part of the research was concerned with general sentiments among Europeans. “Europe is extremely pessimistic, and only the countries of the periphery, primarily those in the Eastern Europe region, are hopeful,” he said. “People living in this region believe that they will live in a better world in 20-25 years, while Western Europeans believe their children will live in worse conditions than today.” The analyst argues that this pessimism is primarily a result of security problems related to immigration.

The Századvég research also found that Europeans do not want ‘more Brussels’. In other words, they think that European integration is moving in the wrong direction and they would like more sovereignty for individual nations. According to the Századvég Foundation analyst, this position is consistent throughout Europe, but Eastern European countries have an above average preference for a Europe built on nation states.

Lánczi also said that according to the polls, three quarters of Europeans see migration as problematic and harmful, although there is a divide between the Western and Eastern parts of the EU on how to manage the problem. People in the countries most affected by immigration – destination countries for migrants such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and the Benelux countries – want to expand the authority of the EU and are more accepting of resettlement quotas, while the Eastern member states would prefer to deal with the problem themselves, and reject forced allocation.

Lánczi argues that these differences are merely superficial, and that in reality the attitude is the same. The reasoning behind the position of Western Europeans is that they would like to ‘hand over’ the immigrants to other countries. He also points to the fact that the majority of respondents favour the more stringent migration policy of Central and Eastern Europe.

The analyst pointed out that European citizens are united in their expectation that Brussels should protect the external borders, while according to the survey the people in Eastern Europe feel safe in the face of the growing terrorist threat. At the same time, most people believe that there is a real danger of immigrants changing the culture of their country, and that migration can also be an additional burden which hinders economic growth.

The Századvég survey also found that while in 2016, a majority of Europeans believed that the people arriving in Europe were refugees, now more than half believe that most people who come to the continent do so for economic reasons. Lánczi reported that an overwhelming majority of respondents – 81% – believe that the problems which lay behind illegal immigration should be treated at the source.

He also said that the research shows that most people believe organizations which do not have a democratic mandate have no right to interfere with political decisions. In relation to this, Lánczi emphasised that opinions on George Soros are overwhelmingly negative, with 80% of respondents, and a majority in every member state except Estonia, rejecting his activities.

Lánzci also highlighted the fact that one third of respondents believe the European Union will no longer exist in ten years’ time, which, along with indicating dissatisfaction and insecurity, also shows that the EU is not a completely stable institution. In her own presentation, historian and Director General of the House of Terror Museum Mária Schmidt said that the migration issue has brought the fragility of the EU to the surface.

Schmidt also emphasized that the accession of Eastern European countries to the EU was based on a dictate similar to what they had experienced several times before. Instead of parity with the Western member states, the Eastern countries were taken advantage of to counteract the economic stagnation of the 1990s.

Conversely, Schmidt also emphasized that without equal rights for the Eastern European counties, there can be no prospects for success, and that the continent will only be capable of dealing with the challenges it faces if it becomes a shared home for member states that stand on equal footing. This is in contrast to those who believe the EU belongs to the Western Europeans, and that the admittance of the Eastern European counties was merely a misguided accident.

The full details on the research are available at the http://project28.eu website.

Resource: MTI, Századvég Foundation